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Hun Sen says he’s no longer concerned Cambodian workers will be forced from Thailand

Earlier this week, the Cambodian leader worried that the new Thai government would target migrant workers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that he was reassured after seeing a statement from Thailand’s Move Forward Party that said it would not expel Cambodian migrant workers if it forms a government. 

Hun Sen said on Sunday he was worried that a new Thai government would enact policies that would jeopardize the status of migrant workers from neighboring countries.

“This policy will not be supported by Cambodia and Laos,” he said. “Cambodia doesn’t have much but I want to leave a message: ‘Please watch out.’ I don’t want to advise Thai politicians but please watch out.”

Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor has said that at least 1.2 million Cambodians are working in Thailand. 

ENG_KHM_HunSenThaiParty_06082023_02.JPG
Migrant construction workers travel in the back of a crew cab in Bangkok, May 25, 2020. Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Move Forward, the top vote-getting party in the May 14 election, denied it has a policy to repatriate migrant workers. 

“The party's stance is to protect the welfare and labor rights of all workers in Thailand, regardless of their nationalities,” it said in a statement on Thursday. “The Move Forward Party recognizes the importance of the contribution made by the migrant workforce to the economic and social development of Thailand.” 

Move Forward and Pheu Thai – Thailand’s two largest opposition parties – dealt a resounding defeat to the country’s pro-military establishment in last month’s election. But an alliance of eight parties remains short of the 376 seats required to govern in Thailand’s 750-seat bicameral legislature, and no new government has been formed.

Thai economy’s need for migrant workers

On Thursday, Hun Sen said he welcomed the Move Forward statement. 

“So now we don't have any concerns that the workers will leave Thailand,” he said during a public event with thousands of garment factory workers in Kampong Chhnang province. 

But Sou Piseth, a migrant worker in Thailand, speculated that Hun Sen was making the statements simply to gain votes ahead of the July 23 elections.

He pointed out that Hun Sen’s government didn’t do anything to help workers who were stuck in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. 

ENG_KHM_HunSenThaiParty_06082023_03.JPG
Leader of Pheu Thai party Chonlanan Srikaew, left, and leader of Move Forward Party Pita Limjaroenrat, wave in Bangkok, May 17, 2023. Move Forward party denied it has a policy to repatriate migrant workers. Credit: Sakchai Lalit/AP

Mao Saron, another migrant worker in Thailand, told Radio Free Asia on Thursday he isn’t concerned that a new Thai government would expel migrant workers because Thailand relies on workers to boost its economy.

Dy The Hoya, the migration program director at the Phnom Penh-based Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, or CENTRAL, also said he wasn’t worried about Thailand sending thousands of Cambodians back across the border.

“Thailand won’t expel workers because they benefit from them as well,” he said.  

Move Forward said in its statement that it would like to “expand and improve regular pathways” for migrant workers and ensure that those pathways “are free from extortion, coercion, or other forms of exploitation.” 

Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Khmer.


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